Killens Pond State Park is a state park located in the town of Felton, Kent County, Delaware. The park has an area of 1,972 acres (7.98km2), and Killens Pond itself covers 68 acres (0.28km2). It was opened to the public on May 28, 2016, after being closed since February 27, 2010, due to budget cuts and the need for maintenance repairs to its facilities.
The park’s name may derive from “killen”, which means “small pond” in Old English. This word was used as a synonym for “lake” until about 1600, when it began to refer to any body of water smaller than a “mere”. In 1659, William Penn wrote that there were four lakes in his colony, but only one of them had ever been stocked with fish. He named this lake “Lake Killens,” or “Little Lake Kennebec.” After the American Revolution, the term “Kennebec” came to mean “the river and the lake,” so that by 1776, when George Washington visited the area, he noted that there were actually three lakes, not four. One of these three was later renamed “Lake Killens,” and became known simply as “The Pond.”
A dam was built over part of The Pond in 1834, creating what would become known as Big Pond, which remains today. At some point prior to 1800, a small sand bar separated Big Pond from Little Pond, which remained open to the air. This separation made Big Pond effectively a separate lake. Sand bars like this are common along shorelines throughout eastern North America; they can be found anywhere from New England southward through the Mid-Atlantic states, into the Delmarva Peninsula. They consist of sand deposited during a glacial period, mixed with sediments such as silt and gravel.
Killens Pond was originally formed when the Glacial River Warren flowed north, filling a pre-existing valley. As the ice melted, a delta developed at the site, with multiple channels flowing down the modern day Hudson and East Rivers. Locks and dams were built to provide power for mills and factories, and to enhance navigation on inland waterways. Some of these structures remain, while others have been replaced by other forms of generation, including hydroelectric power plants.
However, even today, many miles of rivers and ponds are free of all obstructions, providing excellent habitat for animals. Its northern portion consists primarily of marshland, wetland, and forested areas. There are also patches of prairie near the mouth of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, where salt meadows provide a unique environment supporting a rare type of dune grass called sea oats.
Killens Pond is currently undergoing restoration efforts to improve habitats for aquatic and terrestrial wildlife. Plans call for improving drainage in order to reduce flooding, restoring native vegetation to increase biodiversity, and installing wireless sensors to track nesting birds and mammals. When completed, these projects should result in increased populations of birds and mammals, more diverse plant communities, and lower flood levels.
The park provides access points for the Bay Circuit Trail and the Northern Kent Trails. The park also contains two listed buildings – the Smokehouse Covered Bridge and the Wilson House – both of which are protected under the National Register of Historic Places. Smokehouse Covered Bridge Built in 1870, it is owned by the state of Delaware and operated as part of the Delaware Heritage Route. It spans 109 feet (33m) east of the southern end of the park, near South Bethany Road. It is a Howe truss bridge, constructed of oak lumber, with hand-hewn timbers and iron rods. It is covered by a metal roof, held in place by wooden pegs.
The bridge carries two tracks of the Wabash Railroad, serving as a freight line until World War II, when it carried passenger service between Wilmington and Philadelphia via the Seashore Line. Passenger service ended in 1960, and Freight Service ended in 1981, though the line still runs as far as Bear Creek. The Wilson House Built around 1860, it is now home to the Eleanor Roosevelt Birthplace Association. It is owned by the state of Delaware and managed by the non-profit Friends of Historical Kent. The house is furnished in the late 19th century style, complete with a stove, refrigerator, table, chairs, and bed. Visitors can tour the home, and take part in historical reenactments presented by the Friends of Historical Kent each summer.
The park includes a Nature Center that houses natural history exhibits, a gift shop, and snack bar. The park’s grounds feature walking paths, picnic tables, volleyball courts, horseshoe courts, softball fields, and soccer fields. Bicycling is prohibited within the park. Campsites are available year round, with 30 electric hookups and 50 tent campsites. Half of the campsites are available for self-registration on a first come, first served basis, while the remainder require reservations. Advance campground registration begins on November 15, six months before the scheduled date of arrival.
To help fund a backlog of deferred maintenance and park improvements, the state implemented an entrance fee for this park. The fees, charged per vehicle, start at $10 per day for a single-day or $8 for residents with an active license plate or permit. Fees are waived for honorably discharged veterans and Delaware residents age 62 & older and their spouses. Passes good for three days or a week are also available; annual passes good at all 22 state parks charging fees are offered at a cost of $75 for out-of-state visitors or $60 for Delaware residents.
On March 21, 2011, Killens Pond State Park was among eleven parks in Delaware that were slated to close indefinitely due to funding concerns and structural issues. Budgetary concerns have been alleviated and work on the park has continued. A new contract with Delmarva Power was signed in October 2012, allowing the company to continue to maintain the park’s electrical systems for another five years. Work started in 2013 on a $4 million project to replace the park’s aging sewer system. Construction crews laid 3,200 feet (1,000m) of pipe between 2014 and early 2017, finally completing the project in June 2017. Following completion of the park’s sewage treatment facility, Killens Pond State Park officially reopened on Friday, July 13, 2017. Seasonal hunting is permitted in most parts of the park.
The park offersactivities such as:
- horseback riding
Common game species include:
- white-tailed deer
- black bear
- wild turkey
- ruffed grouse
- common pheasant
- American black duck
- Canada geese
- red fox
- yellow-bellied marmoset
- cottontail rabbits
These oat fields support a variety of birds, including:
- bald eagles